A river birch tree can live up to 50 years, but small problems like dry or compacted soil can significantly cut down its lifespan. This guide will provide you with a few tips on how to get the most out of your river birch.
Compared to other trees, river birch roots grow relatively shallow in soil. This means these trees are very susceptible to drying out, which can stress and eventually kill the tree.
When planting, pick a spot where the soil will retain water well but also gives the tree's leaves adequate sunlight. The best space will provide shade on the ground while light can reach the upper parts of the tree as it grows. If possible, plant your river birch on the north or east side of your home so the shadow keeps the ground cool and moist. Other trees or plants in the vicinity can also provide shade.
Birch trees grow well in somewhat acidic soils, though too much acidity can cause problems such as iron chlorosis. Before planting, have your soil tested by a professional.
If your soil has a pH of over 6.5, you may want to choose a different type of tree or test a different location. River birch can do well in somewhat dry soil, though they prefer moisture. If you must move your location due to acidity, you can switch to a drier location so long as you can keep a good eye on your tree's progress.
Compacted soils will cause strain on the shallow root system of your river birch, so avoid planting near areas driveways, walkways, patios, or anywhere with frequent weight. Pressure on the roots puts strain on them and can stunt their growth.
Water does not filtrate well in compacted soil, so a birch tree would also be unable to get the necessary nutrients. This can cause disease and rot through bacteria and fungus. Clay soils are more porous, so they let a bit more water in than compacted soil, but they impede root growth so much that this can actually prove to be worse.
If you notice leaves turning yellow, call your local extension office and have them take a look at your tree.